EFL agree new £595m television deal

The English Football League has formally agreed a five-year domestic broadcasting deal with Sky Sports worth £595million, starting next season.

The deal was unanimously approved by the league’s nine-strong board, but is slightly different to the agreement provisionally made with the broadcaster last September.

That was for £600million over five seasons and Sky Sports has also now obtained eight extra midweek games a season. The new deal is worth £119million a season, £31million more per year than the current deal.

Despite that, several Championship clubs, including Aston Villa, Derby and Leeds, strongly criticised the original proposal and are unlikely to be happy with the final agreement.

But, with Sky imposing a Monday deadline to agree the deal, the EFL board has decided this is the best option on the table for the 72 clubs, particularly as it protects each club’s right to develop their own streaming service for fans here and abroad.

In a statement, the EFL’s interim chair Debbie Jevans said: “Having fully considered the matter, its implications and any associated risks, the EFL board is satisfied that the right deal for the EFL and its clubs has been reached.

“Concluding these negotiations has indeed been challenging, as is the case when managing a diverse group of stakeholders, and the board took on board the comments and frustrations voiced by a number of clubs and has committed to reviewing the way the league engages with its clubs to ensure that we move forward in a collaborative way in the future.”

That is reference to recent suggestions that up to 15 Championship clubs wanted to reject the offer, believing it tied the league in too long and was not worth enough money. Several of these clubs are also understood to have threatened to break away from the EFL if the deal was signed.

Under the deal, Sky will be able to broadcast 138 EFL games a season, with a minimum of 20 of those being League One and League Two matches.

Sixteen of those games will be Championship matches on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, and Sky will also get eight additional midweek games as co-exclusives with the clubs’ streaming services. They will also be available to Sky’s residential customers via its red button service.

Crucially, however, none of these midweek games will available to commercial customers via the red button, although the eight additional games will be televised on a second Sky channel, giving customers in pubs and clubs two options.

Keeping EFL games off the red button in pubs was a key consideration for many clubs, as they believe that would damage attendances.

The overall package includes all 15 EFL play-off matches, 15 Carabao Cup games and the Checkatrade Trophy’s semi-finals and final.

EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey said: “The deal we have entered into with Sky, after fully testing the current market through our external advisors, allows our clubs the benefit of financial security which was an absolute priority for us throughout this process.

“It is a partnership that, as well as having the necessary financial benefits, provides the EFL with the platform to maximise reach and exposure for its competitions, alongside providing further opportunities for clubs to monetise some of those games not broadcast on television through a (direct to consumer) offering.”

While Harvey will be delighted the board backed a plan he has championed from the beginning, it remains to be seen how his biggest critics will respond, and the three Championship clubs represented on the board – Bristol City, Brentford and Reading – are not understood to be among the potential rebels.

Clubs concerned that Harvey was selling the rights too cheaply are unlikely to be pleased by the right Sky will have in the deal’s final two years to increase their broadcast offering to 158 games a season.